Currently, we don’t do much in the way of formal care and handling training for staff at Iowa State University Library, for two reasons: (1) Preservation enjoys a high profile in our institution, so there is a general awareness of preservation concerns across the Library, and (2) our Library does not have a lot of turnover; many key staff members have been in their positions for upwards of ten or twenty years, and they are very well-versed in care and handling concerns. The Circulation staff and Stacks Management staff in particular know what to look for and when to call Preservation for assistance. Likewise, Special Collections staff enjoy a close working relationship with our department, and they are sensitive to potential issues. So, “training” really only happens on a case-by-case basis, as specific causes for concern arise. For example, the University Archivist recently requested that I test some plastic sleeves housing new acquisitions, just in case they contained PVC. Fortunately, the sleeves proved to be PVC-free, but I appreciated her diligence in contacting us to be sure.
We reach out to educate Library users in various ways. Special Collections staff provide instruction to each user visiting the Special Collections Reading Room on how to handle the materials safely, when a book cradle is necessary, when to wear cotton gloves, etc. The Preservation Department holds occasional events which are open to the public (particularly during Preservation Week each April), such as free webinars for specific care and handling of photographs, textiles, and other specialized materials.
The Conservation Unit also works closely with Circulation to educate users on care and handling issues, especially issues such as mold. In some cases, circulating books have returned to the Library severely infested with mold. If the book is beyond salvage and a new copy must be purchased for the collection, the user will be charged to replace the book. On some occasions, users have wanted to keep the moldy item after paying the replacement cost. Circulation and Conservation work together in such situations to educate the user on the dangers of mold, such as its potential health hazards, and the risk of the mold spreading to other books, drapery, rugs, and upholstered furniture if left unmitigated in the user’s home.
Contrasting with the more informal, small-scale approach to staff and user training which suits our institutional culture right now, Duke University Libraries has developed a more formal training program. Let’s head over to Preservation Underground to learn more about it.